VoIP stands for voice over internet protocol. These are voice calls routed over internet networks using the internet protocol. IP serves as the base of the internet on which all internet applications like website pages, emails, instant messages etc. reside.
VoIP offers a great promise to communication. VoIP offers a low cost voice communication. Yet, there are hindrances to the wide scale adoption of VoIP.
This article discusses the disadvantages of VoIP, which many are familiar with. In addition, this article will also discuss how to improve the quality of VoIP phone service.
Disadvantages of VoIP
It is common knowledge that the many advantages of VoIP come with a few glaring disadvantages too. Here are the 4 major disadvantages of VoIP.
1. Maintaining Reliable Internet Connection for VoIP
During outages, there will be no internet connection and hence no telephone service, while a cellular phone can be used under such circumstances.
2. 911 Emergency
Normally when a call is made to 911, the operator is able to tell the address of the caller in order to send help to the correct location. With VoIP, that is not the case.
E911 can resolve this issue. The VoIP phone number registered online and whenever a 911 call is made using this VoIP phone, the location can be determined by the emergency personnel.
3. Large Number of Computers Connected to the Network.
If many computers are connected to the network and are using the internet at the same time, then the quality of VoIP audio will be poor, especially over a wireless connection. Ethernet (a cable connection) is highly recommended under such circumstances.
4. Poor Audio Quality of VoIP
This brings up the biggest issue – audio quality. No matter what bells and whistles are associated with a VoIP phone, the basic function of any phone is voice communication. If the audio quality is poor, then there is no point in using VoIP phone even though it has all the bells and whistles!
What good is VoIP phones that have additional video, music, caller ID and many advanced features but has a lot background noise and also dropped calls? This disadvantage is addressed in more detail in the next section.
Although there have been a lot enhancements to VoIP, the audio quality suffers at times. VoIP is entirely dependent on internet connection and so whatever affects the internet connection will affect VoIP phone service.
6 Tips to Improve the VoIP Quality
Many users complain about poor audio VoIP quality (which is the disadvantage #4), dropped calls etc. Here are 6 aspects of the VoIP setup that can affect the quality of VoIP phone service. Following these tips can greatly improve the VoIP quality.
1. Internet Connection
High speed internet connection is highly recommended. Some companies offer VoIP for dial up internet connection but this will result in poor audio and eventually you will begin to dislike VoIP but this is not the fault of the VoIP.
It is the internet connection. Even with the high speed internet connections like cable or ethernet, there are occasionally times of very high data transfer and during those times, the VoIP quality will be poor.
2. External Factors like Weather Conditions
Heavy rains, thunderstorms and snowstorms can cause increased static on broadband lines. Sometimes turning off the VoIP setup and turning it back on can resolve this problem. The other solution is that your VoIP service provider can replace these cables with higher quality cable to reduce the static. These cables are expensive. It is your decision whether to replace it or not.
3. Compression Software i.e., Codec
The technical details of the codecs are out of scope for this article. You can find more details about codecs on Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codec). Here is brief explanation of codecs with respect to VoIP – VoIP compresses the voice data packets before sending them. The reason for compression is that the compressed data packet sent or transmitted is not heavy i.e., if the data packet is heavy, then the transmission will be too slow and ineffective. Codec is the software that is used for such data compression purposes. If the codec is not of good quality, then audio quality will suffer.
4. VoIP Hardware and its Location
The VoIP hardware has huge impact on the VoIP audio quality. The most important one is the ATA/Router. VOIP ATA (Analog Telephone Adaptor) brings traditional telephones to the networked world. It connects phone handset-to-Ethernet adaptor and hence interfaces regular analog telephones with VoIP telephone networks. More details about ATA can be found on Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analog_telephony_adapter).
ATAs in general should have support for Firewall and security, compression technologies and echo cancellation. Many technicians have found out that VoIP equipment interfere with each other and create some type of buzzing noise or feedback and sometimes dropped calls. Contrary to the belief that VoIP hardware/ equipment must be as close as possible to each other, the ATA should not be placed very close to the broadband internet router! Placing these equipment away from each other can improve the VoIP phone service’s audio quality.
5. Computer Hardware and Maintenance
Regular de-fragmentation, availability of more memory on your computer, high quality of speakers and microphone etc. can positively affect the VoIP quality.
6. VoIP Phone Type/ Frequency
The phone type and frequency can affect the VoIP quality. Contrary to the belief that higher frequency delivers better VoIP quality, sometimes using a lower frequency phone may be better suited to your connection. So if you experience a lot feedback in the audio, then it is a good idea to try a phone with lower frequency.
Overall VoIP has a great promise for providing excellent communication at very low costs. VoIP services are not a fad – they are here to stay. A lot research has been done by major corporations to resolve some of the disadvantages of VoIP and also to improve the quality. Every few months, there is some improvement in the VoIP quality.